Blue Jays: Time may be running out on Derek Fisher

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Derek Fisher #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Derek Fisher #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays have had high hopes for Derek Fisher, but he’s struggled since arriving in Toronto last year, and his time to prove himself could be running out.

It was a bit of an eye-raising move when the Blue Jays made an 11th hour trade with the Astros last summer, sending Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and prospect Cal Stevenson to Houston in exchange for Derek Fisher. It seemed like an awful lot to give up, even if it hasn’t turned out that way at all for the Astros, but it also placed some high hopes on Fisher’s shoulders from Blue Jays fans.

Unfortunately he’s badly struggled in his big league opportunities, and after last night’s 0-2 performance including a big strikeout with the bases loaded, he’s now slashing just .158/.292/.316 in very limited opportunities, equating to just 19 at-bats so far this year. It’s not exactly fair to judge that small of a sample size, but going back to when he when he joined the Blue Jays, he’s slashed just .164/.273/.373 over 110 at-bats entering last night’s game.

If this were 2019, the Blue Jays would have the time and patience to see if Fisher could get things going, and maybe even give him some semi-regular playing time to evaluate him. However, now that the team is in the mix for a post-season spot, it’s going to get more difficult for Charlie Montoyo to pencil him into the lineup, and that likely doesn’t bode well for his future in Toronto.

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The Blue Jays have benefitted from having patience with an unproven talent player in the past, and we’re seeing that with Teoscar Hernandez in 2020, who is transforming into an All-Star calibre hitter before our eyes. When it comes to Fisher though, the situation is a bit more complicated, and his path could more closely resemble that of Anthony Alford‘s, who was recently designated for assignment, and eventually landed in Pittsburgh.

The common trait between Fisher and Alford is that they were both out of minor league options to start this season, which meant they had to be DFA-ed if they were removed from the big league roster, as we saw with Alford. While that was going on, Fisher wasn’t a candidate for removal because he was on the Injured List, and didn’t count against the 40-man, or 28-man roster. However, now that he’s healthy the Blue Jays have to keep him on the active roster.

As they progress toward the stretch run, it might be tough to justify keeping him on the roster. The trade deadline has passed so they’d have to replace him with an in-house option if they’re looking for an upgrade, but they do have Jonathan Davis waiting in the wings. Davis would provide the team with some extra speed on the bases (and hopefully some better base-running in general), and some late-inning defence. While Fisher may have a lot of raw talent in his tool bag, he really isn’t finding a way to contribute on offence, or with the glove.

Perhaps the Blue Jays can live with that from one of their bench pieces for now, but looking ahead to next year, the need to keep a roster spot open for him isn’t going away, and we’ll theoretically be looking at 26-man rosters again by then. That affects the pitching staff more than the bench, but Fisher still needs to prove his value and give the front office a reason to keep him around beyond potential. With just 22 games remaining in the regular season schedule, is he going to get that opportunity?

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For what it’s worth, I’m usually on the side of hanging on to players borderline too long in order to see them figure it out, as we’ve seen it happen with Hernandez and Randal Grichuk this year, and others like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the past. However, Fisher’s time to prove himself under the condition of a guaranteed MLB roster spot may be running out in Toronto